The Art of the Possible?

June 13, 2013

Presentation of a bill likely reflects positions the proponent sees as good public policy, attainable, and/or, at least, negotiable. When New York Governor Cuomo’s proposed “Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2013” is compared with current New York City campaign finance law, we find an interesting mix of imitations and deviations. Here are several highlights.
Topic Issue Governor's Bill New York City Law
Contribution Limits Publicly Funded Candidates (primary and general election combined)
Statewide - $12,000 (primary and general)
Legislature - $4,000 or $8,000 (primary and general)
City-wide - $4,950
City Council - $2,750
Higher receipt limits for Non-Publicly Funded Candidates Yes No
Higher contribution limits for Candidate's relatives Yes No
Corporations $1,000 annual aggregate limit Prohibited to covered candidates
Limited Liability Companies $1,000 annual aggregate limit Prohibited to covered candidates
Labor Organizations and Labor PACs Treated like individual contributors May be treated as affiliated under a single contribution limit if they meet do not meet separate governance and account standards
Reduced contribution limits if doing business with government or a lobbyist No Yes
Political Party May transfer $5,000 to candidate; also permits unlimited expenditures, including in coordination with candidate Subject to regular contribution limit which also caps coordinated expenditures
Spending Limits No Yes
Independent Expenditures Contains Magic Words (e.g., "vote for", "vote against") Yes Yes
Can have no reasonable meaning  other than to advocate election or defeat n/a Yes
Between 1 year and 60 days before general election (or 30 days before primary), could only be interpreted by a reasonable person as advocating for the election or defeat of the candidate based upon unequivocal, unambiguous terms of support or opposition Yes n/a
Refers to a clearly identified candidate within  60 days or general election or 30 days of primary Yes Yes
By telephone Not specified Yes, for communications with magic words or no other reasonable meaning
Advance registration as political committee required Yes No
Permissible Uses of Campaign Funds Payment of fines No, if under State campaign finance law, criminal conviction, or imposed by J-COPE Yes, if non-criminal and arising out of political campaign
Public Disclosure - for State elections (Bill) or NYC elections (NYC law) Reporting of all contributions and loans > $1,000 within 48 hours Yes No
Intermediary Yes, defined as "delivery" Yes, defined as delivery or solicitation
Threshold for  disclosing contributor's or intermediary's occupation and business address Contribution of $500 or more Contributions of $100 or more
Name of contributor's and intermediary's employer disclosed Not specified Yes
Public Financing May opt-in for public funding in primary but not general election, and vice versa? Unclear No
May receive public funds pre-primary even if unopposed in primary? Yes, half maximum payment allowed if there's a primary in a major party for office sought No
May receive maximum public funds for each primary in which candidate is on the ballot (i.e., Wilson-Pakula authorization)? Not precluded Specifically precluded
Provisions to reduce public funds payments in non-competitive elections No Yes
Permissible Uses of Public Funds Pay business entity in which candidate has an interest Not prohibited Prohibited
Pay penalty or fine Not prohibited Prohibited
Payment to defend ballot petitions Not prohibited Prohibited
Public Financing Administration and Enforcement Non-Partisan No, State Board of Elections Enforcement Unit Yes, NYC Campaign Finance Board
Bi-Partisan Yes No
Deadline for completing post-election audit 2 years Variable and subject to indefinite postponement

Tags: New York CityNew York State